The Indonesian government is seeking a more integrated approach to its policies in the country’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, one that it hopes will improve the welfare of Papuans and effectively address the longstanding conflicts in the region, Indonesia’s chief security minister has said.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said the government’s new approach would be centred on collaborative efforts by government stakeholders to execute programmes aimed at improving the lives of Papuans.
“The government will introduce a new approach, which is based on welfare,” Mahfud told a media briefing last week. “It will be collaborative and integrated, meaning ministries should not work in isolation.”
Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin is leading this new approach in Papua and West Papua, which will be focused on agriculture, security and social issues, Mahfud said.
He added that the multi-stakeholder approach was provided for in the recently passed amendment to the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, which granted a larger allocation of special autonomy funds along with greater central government oversight on their disbursement.
The new law, which was amended in July, increases the country’s annual budget for the Papua and West Papua special autonomy fund from two per cent to 2.25 per cent of the country’s General Allocation Funds (DAU).
Mahfud said one per cent of the funds would be disbursed by the central government in the form of block grants to the regional administrations, while the remaining 1.25 per cent would be managed by the central government to finance infrastructure development and other programmes designed to improve the lives of Papuans.
The government-managed portion of the special autonomy funds will be used to finance education, health and economic development projects under a performance-based scheme, according to the 2021 Papuan Special Autonomy Law.
While the new law may increase efficiency and accountability in the use of the funds, it also increases friction between Papua and Jakarta and ignores longstanding Papuan demands to limit the influx of economic migrants, protect human rights and grant the region more political power, according to a recent report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac).
The government will also focus its military operations in Papua and West Papua in areas where separatist groups are believed to be hiding, Mahfud said.
Mahfud’s statement came not long after recently inaugurated Indonesian Military (TNI) commander General Andika Perkasa told lawmakers at a confirmation hearing that he wanted to implement a “softer approach” in handling security issues in Papua.
Indonesia has been widely criticised for its large-scale deployment of armed forces to address security issues in Papua and West Papua, which experts say has failed to effectively treat the root causes of the violence in the region.
Since his election in 2014, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has repeatedly emphasised the government’s focus on developing Papua and West Papua through infrastructure development and welfare programmes, with the hope that it will resolve the longstanding conflicts in the regions.
Experts, however, caution that the government should not view the Jakarta-led economic development agenda as a panacea for the conflicts, pointing out that Indonesia often finds itself on the defensive at the UN, especially against accusations from Vanuatu over alleged rights violations in the regions.
Gadjah Mada University’s Papua task force head Gabriel Lele said the case of Papua had reinforced the idea that foreign policy started from home. He noted that the government needed to win the hearts and minds of Papuans to quell criticism of its policies in the country’s easternmost regions.
“This can begin with both material and symbolic things so that political integration is followed by social integration. If that doesn’t happen, then there will be division, where Papuan friends don’t feel like they are part of Indonesia,” he said in a recent discussion organised by the foreign ministry.
Melanesian solidarity among Pacific nations was one of the reasons why some such nations were speaking out on behalf of Papuans at the UN, said Elvira Rumkabu of Cendrawasih University in Jayapura.
Economic aid, while an important part of Indonesia’s engagement with the Pacific region, was only material, she said, while Jakarta did not seem be to addressing the “primordial differences” between Papua and the rest of the country.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK